Karel, who was the young ghost warrior who died in Bakhmut

Karel, who was the young ghost warrior who died in Bakhmut
Karel, who was the young ghost warrior who died in Bakhmut

“Good morning, forgive the inconvenience, we know that you are a journalist and you have been to Ukraine where you spent time with our son Karel, a Czech volunteer who fought with the special forces alongside the Kiev troops. A few weeks ago our creature died, he was killed by the Russians. We need to know more about our beloved Karel, the loss of him is an unimaginable agony that tears us apart every day. We would like to have news on what he was doing lately, videos and photos. We thank you for your help, you understand we are destroyed ”. It was early May when we received this message via Whatsapp from an unknown number. They were the parents of Karel Kučera, the Czech volunteer, in fact, whom we had met in February in the Kupiansk area, the extreme edge of the Kharkiv Oblast close to the border with Russia, one of the hottest areas for fighting.

We were “embedded” (framed) with the Ghost Team, the special forces of the International Legion, one of the experiences that very few manage to have and which was possible thanks to the deep friendship that binds me to one of them, Alessio, an Italian volunteer originally from Sardinia. “We are the Ghost Team, we operate like ghosts, but when the enemy sees us….”, this is the calling card with which the ghosts of audacity presented themselves. The missions of the Ghosts go further, as their motto “Only One Way” says with three overlapping triangles. They intervene as “first responders”, to stem a sudden Russian offensive from entrenched positions in the woods, where the firefight turns into hell. Or to carry out sabotage operations against Russian aircraft with the use of rocket launchers and assisted by anti-aircraft missile systems. Or, and this is their specialty, there are actions behind enemy lines. “We go to liberate the villages occupied by the Russians or we enter the areas where the enemy is stationed to capture him and bring him back in order to obtain information for the next mission”.

Karel did all this and he did it from the beginning because, together with Alessio and Ghost himself, leader of the homonymous group, he was one of the first to enlist in the International Legion in the aftermath of the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin. After a tough training, he entered the special forces, the elite of foreigners recruited in Ukraine to fight against the Russians. In short, Karel was a veteran despite his age, he would have turned 23 on June 24th. And instead enemy fire cut short his young life just as he was doing what he most believed in, defending freedom. “I cry every day, the pain is unbearable, I can’t go to work and I live only thanks to the fact that I have another child, otherwise I would probably commit suicide”, the mother of the fallen fighter tells us.

Karel Kučera was born on 06/24/2000 and died on 03/18/2023 near the village of Khromivka near Bakhmut. He studied at the Nove Strašecí city gymnasium, graduated from high school in May 2019. He Played football and tennis, was fond of diving and kickboxing, but also did singing lessons. From the age of 15, his character as a leader always emerged among the kids with whom he attended summer camps every holiday. He enjoyed skiing in the Alps, canoeing rivers, riding a bicycle. He read Remarque, Hemingway, lots of books in English. In high school he acted in a theater group and directed plays of various genres. He wrote stories, took pictures, wandered in nature, went on afternoon excursions at night and photographed everything he encountered along the way. He loved music, adored his brother who was seven years younger and was very attached to his parents and all family members. He helped his grandmother and grandfather in the garden and at one point he decided to move in to take care of them. But then there was also a passion for military training and the audacity to take up a rifle if his country was invaded as had happened half a century earlier with the Soviets. Just as he would have defended any other European nation attacked by enemies of freedom such as Russia. And so in February he left. And so he met Alessio and the others. And so he became an elite fighter.

He was one of the first to join the team, he was one of the founding members together with me, K, Indiana, Ghost, Bruce – says Alessio – An excellent fighter always with a smile. At the front he teased me when the helicopters passed over our heads. I hate the sound of helicopters and he would look at me through his balaclava and give me the rotor sign and then he would laugh, and all the brothers on the team laughed. He always did that wonderful scoundrel ”. Alessio does not hide the deep pain of the loss: “I miss him very much because we have been together 24 hours a day for more than a year, we have done an enormous amount of missions, he was a pillar of the team, very young, a very technical soldier, intelligent on a tactical level and he was a splendid person”. A fighter with a cool samurai serenity, this is the Karel we too met in February, when he told us he was on lookout as the Russians bombed relentlessly around the base where the Ghosts were: When you hear the bomb whistle reaching even twenty meters was one of the most bizarre moments of my life”, he told us while in the background artillery shots were fired in and out.

But then came that cursed mission to Bakhmut, in the midst of the battle for the conquest of Ukrainian Stalingrad, and that damned phone call that reached us in the middle of the night: “It was delirious, carnage last night, Ghost (the leader Pole whose real name is Michal) Kevin, Karel and Sebastian are killed in battle. Died”. “The world is indebted to Karel for his efforts and sacrifices in the fight for freedom and democracy. He died, but he will live forever in the hearts of his loved ones, his teammates and the Ukrainian people, like a martyr – K another of the founders tells us -. You may become a soldier, but you are born a warrior and, fortunately for us, Karel was born as such. Despite the hardships he endured during many fights, he continued to fight and never backed down. He paved the way for others and set an example for all to follow for success on the battlefield.” But as often happens in war, honor corresponds to pain.

“I begged Karel to come back every day, we were terribly worried about him and now we are a family in ruins”, our mother repeated in many phone calls, asking us for weeks not to write about Karel, not to show photos of him without a balaclava, because the pain was still devastating, they wouldn’t hold up. Then a message in early July: “We are ready, it is right to tell Karel’s story for all those who, like him, have made a choice of courage and freedom. To do him the honor he deserves ”. And so we did it here in these spaces of La Stampa, where we were the first to host the story of Ghost and Karel. “Many people tell me that I am strong and that they themselves would not be able to bear such a burden for their child, but they don’t know what is going on in our minds all day – the mother explains to us in one of the last messages of some day ago – They don’t know how tragically desolate our family is and how empty life sometimes seems to us. We live only for our youngest son, the only one now”.

Before closing the conversation, Karel’s parents gave us a series of photos that trace their son’s life, up to those in camouflage when he was training but without a balaclava. And that’s what we chose to publish. Because Karel, now that you’re up there, in the common home of someone like you who fought for an ideal, you can finally show your face as a young warrior.

 
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